Two over-50s make a hundred – or in this case a pair of centurions

Barnes storming

The home side is more than an hour into its 45 overs when we pitch up at Feethams, Darlington, for the game between Durham and Northumberland Over 50s.

It’s 2.15pm and Jonny Barnes, himself a Darlington player but these days better known for his insuperably parsimonious bowling, has opened the batting and is still there.

“Barnesey looks knackered,” says someone in the crowd of six, the condition perhaps accelerated because there’s been an all-run four and several threes. “I took the drinks out and asked him if he wanted CPR,” says Derek Coates, another spectator “He politely declined.”

Bare headed, he’s batting with Calvin Stephenson, familiar at Etherley, Willington and elsewhere and, like Jonny, recently qualified to fortify the Over 50s.

They bat on. Old Barnes – three Durham games in their last Minor Counties season, 17 years as Northallerton’s professional and also known as a formidable golf, snooker and darts player – seems to have second wind, finally recording his first century since 1999 and the first by a Darlington player at Feethams this season.

The crowd’s increased to seven, almost half of whom stand to applaud. Darlington president Jimmy Robinson, who’s 87 and lives out the back, arrives immediately afterwards and is told what’s happened.

“Never,” says Jimmy.

He’s finally out for 115, told that there are those in the ground who thought him knackered at quarter-past-two. “I was knackered at quarter-past-one,” says Jonny.

They close on 296-3, Calvin on 115 not out, the first time in Over 50s history that Durham have had had two centenarians in the same match.

The air ambulance, wheels down, flies a couple of circuits of the ground but decides against it. The jokes may be imagined.

The atmosphere’s competitive but wholly good natured. “Centuries against us don’t count,” says one of the Northumberland lads, one or two of whom appear to have been on the stottie cake.

They reply with 180-7, 16 of them from David Smurthwaite whose father, Harry, was a true legend at Bishop Auckland.

Jonny doesn’t bowl but lopes with surprising alacrity around the boundary. Andy Fothergill, another former first team man, seems sharper than ever behind the stumps. It’s nearly 7pm before they manage a beer. “I reckon,” says Jonny, “that we’ve earned it.”

The Darlington programme the previous Saturday had carried an idiosyncratic and greatly enjoyable report of the second team’s Robinson Cup final win against Thornaby. “The trophy presentation was low key, the league representative providing the sort of warm-up you’d expect at a wake,” it said. The author was that great all-rounder, Jonny Barnes.

Worrying word in the clubhouse afterwards: Jack Chapman, author of Cream Teas and Nutty Slack – one of the truly great cricket books – is seriously ill after a stroke.

Jack’s a Hebburn lad, all-time record run scorer for Leslies in the Tyneside Senior League – only, he’d self-effacingly insist, because he played most games – published Cream Teas in 2003 after 12 years research. He’d thought it would take him 12 months.

Wonderfully anecdotal, the book’s a nook-and-cranny history of club cricket in the geographical county of Durham – clubs like Cockerton Coffee House and Cornsay Canny Lads, like Greenside Temperance, Kelloe Zulus and Shiney Row Blue Ribbon Army.

A retired English teacher, he wrote elegantly but with proper regard for grammatical Ps and syntactical Qs, followed in 2014 with Cream Teas and Canny Crack, a more personal cricket history.

He’d returned to Blaydon, an enduring affection, still produces a match programme overflowing with love for cricket past and present.

He’s now in Sunderland Royal Infirmary where he was able to open his eyes long enough to see the last tumultuous overs of the World Cup final on a phone. “A little bit of good news,” says Christine, his daughter.

The truly incredible Sharon Gayter, 55, begins her attempt on the women’s world record for running from John o’ Groats to Lands End at 7.30am tomorrow.

It’s 822 miles with 33,000ft of climbing and not a lot of sleep. She aims to do it inside 12 days. “I’m as fit and as confident as I can be. I believe I can do it,” says Sharon, a former bus driver who’s now a Teesside University lecturer and lives in Guisborough.

The support van has the registration SG02RUN, the support bikers include Eleanor Robinson – now in her 70s and herself a former world champion ultra-runner – and Sharon’s ever-loyal husband, Bill.

The back-up team’s also joined by Izzy Wilkinson, a retired police officer. “I’m hoping she can vary the menu a bit,” says Sharon. “Bill only runs to beans.”

Guinness World Records requirements mean that she must also wear a body camera at all times. “I’m a little bit worried about pit stops. I’m not sure anyone wants to see that,” she says.

With donations welcomed for Redcar and Cleveland MIND, her progress can be followed via a tracker on – and, of course, the column will be trying to keep up next week.

While the rest of England was glued to the World Cup final, hundreds in east Durham turned out on Sunday afternoon for the inaugural Frank Garraghan Memorial Trophy match between Peterlee and Blackhall.

Frank, who died recently, was a Peterlee stalwart, described on a memorial bench as “a true gentleman.” His sons David and Michael still play for the club as do Michael’s lads, James and Sam.

Frank’s family organised the day, Peterlee won the 35-over match and all concerned were back in the clubhouse in time for the final overs at Lord’s. “The bar just erupted,” reports Cynthia Simpson.

These days the Peterlee ground’s called the Roy Simpson MBE Oval, tribute to another great clubman, and it was Roy who was asked afterwards how it compared with watching England’s World Cup win in 1966.

“I didn’t see it, I was playing cricket,” said Roy. “It was Dean and Chapter, I think, and I took 7-28.”

A PS to last week’s piece on the Scarborough Cricket Festival. John Fuller’s new book recalls that the catalyst for recent ground improvements was a 2009 feature in The Guardian by celebrated cricket writer David Hopps.

Hopps, who loved the Scarborough ground, wrote of its squalor and “terminal decline”. Worse yet, the press room toilet wouldn’t flush and the door handle fell off.

The club reacted commendably, the press room toilet formally renamed Hopps Inn. These days it even flushes.

That column also recalled Scarborough’s problem with marauding gulls. Same at Hove, writes Don Clarke, though they’ve a model hawk on a wire which they let fly whenever they become particularly pestilential. “Highly effective,” he reckons.

Recalling some of the star footballers of south Tyneside, last week’s column also culpably talked of George Graham when, of course, we meant the great George Armstrong. Several spotted it, Kev Connolly especially excoriating. “Call yourself a Gooner,” he says.

….and finally, the team which Scarborough faced in the 1989 Football league Cup and the 2004 FA Cup (Backtrack, July 13) was Chelsea.

Acknowledging his source as Radio 4’s Brain of Britain quiz, the Stokesley Stockbroker invites readers to suggest how inside forward Phil Chisnall could claim a first and a last, both in 1964.

Last first, the column returns next week.